The Reading for Today in the Lectionary:
Matthew 2: 16Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
18“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
There is nothing more heartbreaking than for a mother or father to have to face the death of a child no matter the age. And thus writes Matthew citing the history of Israel that there is no comfort or consolation. There are no words to bring solace. This is a place of deep darkness. Mary was even told that her own son’s (Jesus) death would pierce her soul.
So when we enter the house of a deceased child be it in a family home or funeral home or even on the barren ground where masses of unnamed children are buried let us only offer a silent prayer to God. For God knows a most profound grief of losing a child and willingly at that.
On several occasions God said that Jesus is his beloved Son with whom he was so pleased. For the Trinity to walk through darkness is the way God knows the grief of a parent.
We are told in the Bible that Jesus was the kind of priest/pastor who know the heartache of his people because he went through it. He and his Father agonized together in the Garden of Gethsemane concerning the death of a Son.
Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote LAMENT FOR A SON following the death of his own child in a mountain climbing accident.
“Will my eyes adjust to this darkness? Will I find you in the dark – not in the streaks of light, which remain, but in the darkness? Has anyone ever found you there? Did they love what they saw? Did they see love? And are there songs for singing when the light has gone dim? Or in the dark, is it best to wait in silence?
Noon has darkened. As fast as they could say, ‘He’s dead,’ the light dimmed. And where are you in the darkness? I learned to spy you in the light. Here in this darkness, I cannot find you. If I had never looked for you, or looked but never found, I would not feel this pain of your absence. Or is not your absence in which I dwell, but your elusive troubling presence?
It’s the neverness that is so painful. Never again to be here with us – never to sit with us at the table…. All the rest of our lives we must live without him. Only our death can stop the pain of his death.”
“God is not only the God of the sufferers but the God who suffers. … It is said of God that no one can behold his face and live. I always thought this meant that no one could see his splendor and live. A friend said perhaps it meant that no one could see his sorrow and live. Or perhaps his sorrow is splendor. … Instead of explaining our suffering God shares it.”- Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son
Perhaps this is why Bonhoeffer said at one point in Nazi Germany that ‘only a suffering God can help.’